Resolution Statement – 08847-20 Patel v Mail Online
Summary of Complaint
1. Emma Patel and Kerttu Patel complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Solicitor and her 64-year-old mother avoid jail for bombarding 30-year-old's banker ex with messages and calls in joint stalking campaign after he dumped her”, published on 21 January 2020.
2. The article reported on a court case, which resulted in the conviction of a woman and her mother after both pleaded guilty to harassment by stalking. The headline of the article stated that both women had “bombard[ed]” the daughter’s “banker ex […] with messages and calls in [a] joint stalking campaign.” The article then went on to report that the daughter “tracked him down to a rehab retreat in South Africa” and had “inundated [her ex-partner] with phone calls after the break-up of their short relationship.” In addition, the article reported that the daughter had been “seen outside [her ex-partner’s] family home.” The article reported on the sentencing of both women, stating that “they were both also ordered to carry out a 20-day community order” in addition to receiving suspended jail sentences. The article included photographs of the woman and her mother. It also referred to the law firm which the daughter previously worked for, the area where both women lived, and the value of their home.
3. The complainants, the mother and daughter referred to in the article, said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. They said that it was inaccurate to refer the “banker ex” as such, as the daughter was still in a relationship with him, and that the headline’s reference to a “joint stalking campaign” was exaggerated and therefore inaccurate. In addition, the complainants disputed: that they had “bombard[ed]” the daughter’s alleged ex-partner with text messages and phone calls, as the alleged ex-partner responded to messages and calls; that the complainants had “inundated” the alleged ex-partner with phone calls, as they said that in fact it was the ex-partner who had continued to contact the daughter; that the daughter had “tracked” the man to South Africa when he “refused to return her calls”, as he had informed her that he was going there and had never refused to return her calls; and that the daughter had been seen outside the man’s family home, as the complainants said he had no family home. In addition, both complainants said that they had not been “ordered to carry out a 20-day community order” as reported by the article.
4. The complainants also said that the article breached Clause 2. The complainants said that the photographs included in the article had been taken from a private Facebook page without their consent; that the article should not have referred to the daughter’s previous place of employment as she considered this to be private information; and that they had not provided information about their home which appeared in the article -including its approximate location and value - to the publication and therefore that the inclusion of this information breached their privacy.
5. The publication did not accept that the Code had been breached. With regards to Clause 1, it emphasised that the article was a report of court proceedings, and that it considered that the article represented an accurate report of the court proceedings against the complainants. It said that, as part of the complainants’ mitigation, it had been heard in court that the complainants were seeking to “rekindle” the daughter’s relationship with her partner; as such it did not consider that it was inaccurate to describe the “banker ex” as such, where it was heard in court that the relationship had ended. It also said that it did not consider that it was inaccurate to report that the complainants had carried out a “joint stalking campaign” and that the complainants had “inundated” the daughter’s alleged ex-partner with calls and text messages, as it considered this to be a reasonable description of events, where the complainants had pleaded guilty to harassment by stalking. The newspaper also said that it had been heard in court that the daughter had gone to South Africa to “rekindle” her relationship after her alleged ex-partner “refused to return her calls”, and that she had had been seen outside his family home. While the newspaper acknowledged that the complainants had not been “ordered to carry out a 20-day community order”, it had approached the court who informed it that the complainants had received a “20-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement (RAR)” and as such it said that there was no significant inaccuracy in need of correction.
6. With regards to the alleged breaches of Clause 2, the publication did not accept that the Clause had been breached. It said that all of the photographs included in the article were publicly viewable on the complainants’ social media accounts and were therefore in the public domain. It also said that the daughter’s previous workplace had been heard at previous legal proceedings, and as such that this information was also in the public domain. As the information was in the public domain, the publication said that it did not fail to respect the privacy of the complainants, as the information in the article was not private.
Relevant Code Provisions
7. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
8. Clause 2 (Privacy)*
i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications
ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.
9. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
10. The publication offered to remove the article.
11. The complainants said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.
12. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 08/06/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 25/09/2020Back to ruling listing